How to Help Stray Dogs

It’s heart breaking to see stray dogs. Dogs are meant to be cared for by humans, not left alone to live on their own.

Last summer (2013), I started seeing two stray dogs roaming around inside of my gated condo community. They stayed and I saw them constantly. I started leaving food and water out at all times. They would come out of hiding from the green belt and follow me when I walked my dogs.  They followed me enough to know where I lived but they would never get close enough for me to touch.

I started giving them chicken jerky and the brown dog would come take it from my hand. After a lot of chicken jerky, I had to up my game to get both dogs to come closer and come into my backyard. I started cooking them real chicken and that got the white dog to like me a lot more enough for him to come hang out closer to me.

So the plan was to get the dogs to trust that the backyard is a safe place.  I couldn’t just trap them there because my fence is short and white dog could easily jump out of it. I wanted to take both of them together. I waited until the day I could get them in the backyard on a business day so that animal control could take them. I still couldn’t touch them, let alone leash them and get them in my car.

About 1.5 months later the day finally came when I got the dogs follow me to the backyard during a business day. I got a collar on the white dog and leashed him. I leashed the brown dog too. I tried to lead the white dog and the collar came off.  When I tried to go for it again with the collar he barked at me in warning and gurred.

Animal Control was called. Called again. And called again. We were told by 5pm… then we were told there’s 2 day waiting period. I can’t hold them for 2 days. I had to stay in the backyard with them all day to make sure they don’t escape.

It’s too hot for the dogs to live outside and they have been on their own too long. As last resort, with encouragement, I just went for it again with a loop I made out of a stronger leash I had and it worked! Leading the dogs to the car was a huge struggle. Driving to Austin Animal Center was scary because I didn’t know how they were going to react.

We needed help getting the white dog inside the shelter. He got carried in by staff member at Austin Animal Center.

Shelter said the white dog was a Pyrenees mix and most likely feral. Brown dog way chipped. They got placed in the same kennel together in the stray holding area. I think they were happy to be in AC away from the hot Texas summer heat. This all took place on a Tuesday. I went to go visit them on Sunday and couldn’t believe how much they have improved! They greeted me. Let me pet them. Let me walk them. Shelter volunteer said she sees many strays improving like these dogs.

Dog Fosters
Dog Fosters

The dogs who get brought into Austin Animal Center are on stray hold for five days. If they pass (no major behavior or medical issues), they are placed in the adoption program. This means they are safe. AAC said their euthanasia rates are really low now. Austin is no kill 90% or more. They were really helpful with sharing information about the dogs and said we could call and email to check on them.

The dogs were eventually adopted. Yay!


Here are some tips on getting stray dogs to safety.

  1. Call out for the dog to come to you. If the dog is an escaped pet, it’s likely that the dog will be friendly and come to you. Check for a dog tag and call the human. If the dog doesn’t have a tag, try knocking on the houses near by.
  2. Sometimes you’ll see the dog run right back into their yard and come back out again. The dog will probably stay in that area and is used to going in and out of the gate.  Leave the human a note describing how you saw the dog on the road. They probably have an idea of the dog’s activity but hearing from another person will make the danger more real to them.
  3. Do not approach if the dog seems scared of you and gives you warning signs to back off. Instead try to herd the dog away from the road to a safe area.
  4. If you can’t bring the dog to a shelter, it’s important to stay with the dog until Animal Services show up. Be very detailed with them and let them know the situation.
  5. If you have to stop your car to avoid a stray, try not to break suddenly but rather come to a slow stop if you can.  Make sure to check for cars behind you and turn on your emergency signal.  When this happens, I try to block the traffic behind me and try to slow the cars coming from the other direction.

More tips from The Human Society, WikiHow, and Missing Pet Partnership.


How to Guide for Handling Bugsy

Here is a straight forward list of how to handle Bugsy. He has improved A LOT but he will always have some aggressive traits. It’s just how he is. He has bad days. You have to train yourself how to handle him. I can tell you what has worked for us and you should use our tips. But you may find other things that work better for you. Use this as the base of your training and go from there.

Bugsy will become a devil dog sometimes. As in growling and showing teeth.

When he gets like this, do not challenge him. Do not yell at him to stop or make contact with him. He will retaliate and you won’t be happy.

He gets this way in his bed. A lot worse in a crate so I gave up on the crate. Try to put his bed in the living room in a space without direct traffic. You will see the worst of it in the beginning as he needs to get used to a new environment and learn that he is safe. This behavior will decrease as he learns to trust you. He stops growling as soon as he feels safe again.

Make his bed a happy and safe place. When you walk by his bed, throw treats in there. But don’t make eye contact or say anything. You just want him to associate you and the bed with things he likes (treats).

When he is in devil mode, shaking his treat box. It snaps him out of it sometimes. When he snaps out of it, tell him to come to you. Make him do commands (come, up, sit, spin, etc). If he does this, give him a treat. If he doesn’t, don’t treat him.

When he is acting up, grab his leash and start walking away. I would leave his leash on at all times. This will especially be helpful if he tries to lay on the sofa. If you try to push him off of it, he might bite you.

We have let Bugsy be on the sofa a few times. Usually when he has been so good. We have stopped this completely since Bugsy does snap at the end if he get startled.

Don’t let Bugsy hide under things or he will become the devil dog. When he is scared, he will try to hide in a room or under furniture. He will do this specially if it’s raining/thundering outside. He hates bad weather. It makes him scared. Best option is to tie him to something so that he cannot hide.

Until you have him in check that he will not go on your sofa or try to hide somewhere, tie him by his bed when you are gone. It will work like a crate without having to put in one.

Handling Bugsy at first will be challenging and maybe even overwhelming. But as long as you are willing to train to handle him, you will be fine. After you have learned this, rest is easy. Bugsy is low maintenance dog with many fun, quirky sides to him. It’s easy to take care of him and he is non-destructive. He knows lots of tricks and he walks on the leash well.

My days with Bugsy now are pretty uneventful. We go for walks. He flips over for belly rubs. He attempts to communicate with me. I think it’s about either he has to poop or he wants to play. He runs and taps on the door if he needs to pee sometimes. I know he will go into devil mode from time to time but I have the situation under control as long as I follow my own tips.

The rewards of having Bugsy far outweigh the downsides!  He is an adorable, playful, terrier mix that loves to do tricks.  The only thing you need to do is learn to handle his fear related quirks.  Just remember not to challenge him when he goes into devil mode – he is in a scared, defensive mode but will quickly snap out of it if you let him know that everything will be OK.

Animal Rescue Through Austin Pets Alive! – How to Save a Life

Our foster dogs come from Austin Pets Alive! an animal rescue organization that takes dogs off the euthanasia list from animal shelters in the Austin area. Now that they have taken over the former Town Lake Animal Shelter, this animal rescue organization is saving more lives of dogs and cats than ever before. With growth, more funding is needed to save as many lives as possible.

You would be surprised what kind of dogs and cats are euthanized everyday. There are many healthy puppies, kittens, and well behaved animals with many more years ahead of them killed simply because there is no space.

One shelter I volunteered for gave a new dog at the shelter only 5 days to

  1. get into their adoption program if there is space
  2. get adopted
  3. be taken by other shelters.

If non of these 3 things happened, the dog was put down.  5 days are given to a stray dog with an ID (dog collar, microchip) but if an animal has no ID, the time gets cut to only 3 days. When you adopt a dog from Austin Pets Alive! you are saving a life.

Update: Bugsy the Great Kibble Catcher

Bugsy learned some tricks from Zoom Room.

It’s been nearly 10 months since fostering Bugsy. We have had our ups and downs but he is now so much better, manageable, and quiet cute. Bugsy is still looking for his own human to love who can be patient with him.

Here are couple of things you should be aware of to prevent a grumpy Bugsy (photo to the left) which are totally manageable.

  • Restrict his space. Bugsy needs to be really restricted on where he is allowed because once he gets into a confined space (under furniture) or on sofa/bed, he exhibits similar behavior as when he is in a crate.. very growly.
  • No small children. Bugsy should not go to a home with small children. He can be unpredictable at times.
  • He wants to be solo. Bugsy would do best if he is the only dog in the house but he is ok with other dogs …eventually. It will take time under a watchful eye.
  • He is protective of his sleeping area and will growl if he feels his space is being invaded. You can eliminate this behavior by taking the actions below.

1. Give him a doggy bed only to sleep/rest in outside of your room. I placed his doggy bed in the living room.

2. Do not crate him. I’ve taken away his crate.  He has issues with the crate that I don’t think he will ever get over. (I tried)

3. Do not allow him on the bed or sofa.
Bugsy is not allowed on the bed or sofa because he will show space protective behavior. Sometimes he seems ok.. and wants to cuddle with you on the sofa and I do give in sometimes but eventually he will get growly and I have to scold him.


Bugsy needs a patient person who will keep up with the rules above. Other than that, when you adopt Bugsy, you will see that he is a very good companion. Bugsy is a low maintenance dog and non destructive. I’ve had him since January and he has not chewed on anything other than his food and snacks. He is affectionate enough to the point of walking over to you and flip over for a belly rub but he is no snuggle bunny or a kisser. He has been socialized with people and warms up to other humans pretty fast. He acts as a good watch dog though as he dislikes foreign noises in the house such as door knocking or unfamiliar car sounds.

Bugsy is super potty trained. If he has to go he will let you know by tapping the front door with his paws. You just have to make sure he goes on set schedule. Currently he goes in the morning, afternoon, evening, and before bedtime. He will be ok without going out during lunch time if you can’t make it.

Bugsy is happiest and best behaved when he gets his exercise. He loves walks and staring at things from the car or a kayak.

Bugsy doesn’t like to swim but he will dip his feet in the water. He is also ok with bath time.

~ MJ

The Foster Dog we Almost Kept – Sagey the Dachshund mix

Sagey was one of our favorite foster dogs! In the time we took care of him we found him to be a very friendly and cuddly dog that was joy to be around. However, he wasn’t always this way.

Sagey was found on a ranch with a pack of other wild Dachshunds. When we got him from Austin Pets Alive! he was initially extremely scared. The first night in my apartment, he stood completely still in one spot for almost 3 hours. As the days went by, he became a more social dog but it took him almost two weeks to fully warm up to us.

He got the name Sagey for two reasons. First of all, he looks like a sausage so we started calling him “sausagey”. Also, the name of the community I live in is ‘The Sage’, so Sagey was the name that stuck.

Over the month that we had him, I grew pretty attached to him – I loved how he liked to play and run in the back yard, and he was always on the sofa next to me when I worked from home. He was also a funny dog, often hiding under the bed and only sticking his nose out from the bed skirt. He liked to keep a collection of stuffed animals and shoes under the bed, but he never chewed any of them up.

I liked Sagey so much that I gave serious thought to adopting him permenently. However, I finally decided that I wasn’t and still might not be ready for full-time dog ownership, and we can affect more dog’s lives through fostering!

Thanks for reading – Hope you enjoyed this first post about Sagey!


More reading:
Dachshund Gifts
Dachshund Merchandise for dog Lovers

A Chihuahua Named Bugsy – First Foster Dog of 2012

Photo Credit – Peter Tsai

This is Bugsy (on the right), our first foster dog of 2012 and 21st foster to date. I picked him up last Wednesday so he has been with us for a week now. Previously he was with another foster parent for a month who was a foreign exchange student, but he went back to his home country.

Bugsy (previously known as Baby) is a male chihuahua/terrier mix that was surrendered to Town Lake Animal Center (now Austin Animal Center).  As you can see in the picture, he is about the size of a cat and he has a slight (cute) underbite. Bugsy is about 5 years old and  you can read his full bio here.

Bugsy is sweet and smart. He is house broken and non destructive. He has no problem with being crated, but once he is in there, he becomes aggressive and growls because (we are guessing) he has fear issues. At first it was disheartening to see him become like this, but with some dog training help from Jennie Chen (@misohungry on Twitter), Peter and I learned to better take control and reduce the aggressive behavior.

This is a video taken yesterday which shows his progress.  Good doggy! We learned he is good at catching treats with his mouth and he knows how to sit.  Bugsy has been getting better each day and it’s getting easier to put him in and out of the crate 🙂


It All Started with Nine Dogs in April 2009

I had been wanting to foster dogs for a while but had not found an organization yet. I tried few times before but each time I was turned down because I had a dog who was not spayed – Emma my little bitty 4lb Yorkie. She was never around unfixed male dogs so I didn’t want this little thing to go through any surgery. If she were bigger, wanted to play with other dogs, or liked being outside then I probably should have, but she was a very sheltered dog. I don’t think she even knew she was a dog (she acted more like one of my cats).

I know it’s probably a big no no for dog shelters to let someone with an unfixed dog foster one of their own. It goes against what they believe in so I understand why other shelters turned me down. Luckily, Austin Pets Alive! understood my situation and was able to work with me. When I went through the application process with APA! they called my references and came to my home to make sure it was suitable for the future foster dogs.

Once I was listed as a dog foster, I was ready to pick a dog to love! At APA! we use Yahoo! groups to match dogs to fosters.  First, APA! posts a plea message on their bulletin board for dogs who need to get out of the kill shelters around town.  Then, fosters volunteer to take the dog on a first come, first served basis. Back in 2009, APA! did not have a building for any of these dogs go to, so it was up to the fosters to take in the dogs and get them off the euthanasia list.

My first foster was Ella and her 8 new born puppies. Since I was first to pick them up from the shelter (where they were on the euthanasia list), I was able to name them. The mom was named Ella. The eight puppies were named Emma Jr., Austin, Dallas, Dottie, Jack, Jill, Ava, and Houston. I had the puppies until they were about 8 – 9 weeks old and I had Ella until July. Puppies went quick. It only took about a week for them to be adopted. It took couple of months for Ella.

They were probably not the best option for my first fostering experience and it was a lot of work (A lot of poop. A lot of feeding.) but I don’t regret it at all. Ella made it easier by being such a good Mom to her pups.  When the puppies grew up more and could walk, they would all come running towards me. That is joy that just cannot be explained. I still miss them all and think of them.